After a year without rowdy tourists, Prague wants it to be

Cities across the continent want to mold tours in ways that are cheaper for residents, and possibly more lucrative for businesses.

Ideally, a virtuous circle can be created where loud revelers are supplanted by museum goers with more money to spend, at least that’s what you think. Call it organized tourism.

“We met representatives from Amsterdam, Barcelona and Florence during the pandemic, and we all thought the same,” said Hana Třeštíková, Prague tourism advisor. “Before Covid, over-tourism had become almost unbearable, and Covid took a break to try to make changes to what our cities stand for, how we promote ourselves and how we need to focus on the quality of the visits, not the quantity. ”

It wasn’t that long ago that these cities were selling to everyone. But the widely available cannabis and legal prostitution of Amsterdam, Barcelona‘s urban beaches and Prague’s famous breweries increasingly attracted tourists who brought in what Geerte Udo, director of Amsterdam & partners, diplomatically called “effects negative ”.

In recent years, Prague’s tourism problem has started to resemble Amsterdam’s, Třeštíková said. The Czech capital received 8 million visitors a year, almost doubling between 2012 and 2019. And like Amsterdam, most were heading to the same neighborhoods, she said. In the case of Prague, they obstruct the Old Town Square and Charles Bridge.

“The city center is no longer a residential community,” said Třeštíková. “There aren’t many apartments, and these are largely occupied by expatriates or converted into hotels and short-term rentals. We need to focus on what the residents need and show a city that is not a movie set but alive with people from Prague.

But reshaping a city’s tourism business is more difficult than just changing the marketing businesses. Třeštíková said the main factors behind “low quality” visits are not under the city’s control. The cost of tickets on low-cost airlines, the number of Airbnb units and even the price of beer can only be changed nationally, she said.

A spokesperson for the Czech Ministry of Regional Development acknowledged that taxes on alcohol and air travel are determined by parliament, but noted that the Prague city council can submit legislative proposals. A city bill that would give municipalities more power to regulate short-term rentals is currently under consideration, he said.

Even before Covid, officials in Prague hired an agency that sought to persuade tourists “to come for more than two nights.” During the short-term reopening in summer 2020, the city introduced “Prague unlocked», A campaign aimed at a Czech audience, foreign travelers are still rare. It was a success.

Usually, only 15% of Prague tourists are national (compared to 20% in Vienna and almost 50% in Paris). But in 2020, the number of Czech visitors increased by 16%, with many staying in three and four-star hotels, Třeštíková said.

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